This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Charles Crucknell says: "Is not the nomenclature of the palms somewhat confused? Your correspondent says Pritchardia Gaudichaudii is quite a common palm under the name of P. pacifica. Why is it grown and sold under this name? and what name is the tree Pritchardia pacifica grown under, or is the last named palm a myth? Here is one of the last named received from a first-class grower, and it looks like a rank growing Latania borbonica; it certainly bears no resemblance to the Pritchardia Gaudichaudii grown in the Missouri Botanical Gardens. In the same collection is Jubaea spectabilis received from three different sources, one is the common Phoenix, another is a Chamaerops, the third may be true or it may not. Carludovica palmata, the Panama hat palm received from two growers resemble each other about as much as common dinner plates do porcelain.
"Latania glaucophylla received from Europe and Latania rubra the label marked 'true,' received from an American florist are alike as two peas. But it is consoling after paying seven dollars for a very small plant of the latter to be told that it wont be like the other when it grows up. In another collection I found Areca alba being grown for Latania rubra. Brahea filamentosa, the California fan palm is equally well known as Pritchardia filifera, but I find on the back of the label Washingtonia filifera written. Inquiry discovers the fact that Dr. Engleman wrote it. Some years ago great effort was made to fasten this name on the Sequoia. Surely more light is needed."
[When a plant is brought for the first time to scientific attention, it may be overlooked that it has been already named and described, so it is given a new name. When it is discovered that it has been already named, under botanical laws that the prior name must prevail, the last name is dropped, and it then becomes a synonym. There are other reasons why plants often get several names - mostly mistaken reasons, and then all are dropped, but the original name is discovered. Pritchardia Pacifica would be grown and sold under that name only because the sellers do not know its true name is P. Gaudichaudii; or else, knowing it, do not care to change the improper for the proper one.
Palms are very difficult to distinguish when young This is unquestionable. There seems to be no way to secure the risk against the loss of the seven dollars, than to take a guarantee that the plant is the species it is sold for; or else to take the risk on the reputation of the firm selling it, as is generally done.
The case of Pritchardia filifera is simply another illustration of mistaken identity. It was believed to be a Brahea. When the chance to study the plant better came it was found not to be a Brahea, but rather to favor Pritchardia; when still better opportunities occurred, it was found not to be a Pritchardia or to belong to any existing genera. A new one had to be made for it, and Wendland, the botanist, who examined it, named it Washingtonia.
It is just as if a little fellow should be found under the name of John Smith, but on a fuller examination should be found to be Charlie Ross. Many through his life would still call him John Smith, but it would be wrong. He would have to go back to the original name of Charlie Ross, as soon as the error was discovered. - Ed. G. M.]